Last updated on May 25th, 2016 at 08:47 am

Sinister Film Review

Sinister Film Review – There is a significant difference between being shocked and being scared – something I think that has been overlooked in films this year. Looking back at 2012’s horror releases, I can safely say to you that Sinister stands a head and shoulder above the crowd in delivering scares over shocks. That being said, that doesn’t mean the film isn’t without its faults, flaws, plot holes and clichés – but I struggle to think of a watertight film of any genre, let alone one that relies so heavy on the supernatural.

What have we seen so far this year I hear you ask? Well, we have been subjected to paltry mainstream releases such as the patronising Chernobyl Diaries, unintentionally laughable The Possession, the outright ridiculous Piranha 3DD and a saving grace for the genre that was Cabin in the Woods. All drawing from pretty stock ideas, rehashing the typical plots and in some cases just trying to distract you from the lack of any substance at all with some gore and boobs. I cannot mislead you, Sinister also falls victim to taking the same old ideas and throwing them together. 

The film centres around true crime author Ellison, who once wrote a successful book and cracked an unsolved crime earning him money, TV interviews and plaudits. This was back in the days of VHS, and since this is set in present day, we can safely say that Ellison is now a struggling author, looking to recapture his former glory by cracking a grisly crime and earning enough for the future he and his wife have always dreamt of. This is when Ellison and his young family move into a house to get closer to his latest story, although perhaps too close for comfort since the house in question had a quadruple homicide in the rear garden.

This murder obviously went unsolved, but to add to the mystery the young daughter of the family was reported missing also from that point. Unpacking, as you do when you move somewhere new, Ellison heads into the loft where he uncovers a box labelled “home movies”. Its contents: a set of Super 8 film reels with fun sounding titles and a projector. This is what the film is all about – Ellison piecing together what happened in this home movies, the murders, the missing child, and going to pieces himself all at the same time. Not to mention that there is a smattering of the occult and the Boogey man too! 

A struggling writer, a house where a murder occurred, home movies… nothing new here that’s for sure. Fortunately, we have a number of wonderfully well worked elements that tie it all together in something that at least feels fresh for a while, and certainly entertains with a number of scares along the way, not to mention a few shoddy shock moments. Ethan Hawke’s performance is by far the best in a horror movie this year, and watching the home movies with his character and feeling the same emotions as he does really ties you to his screen presence. This is by far his best film since his heights of Gattaca. The supporting actors also help, as Juliette Rylance portrays a strong wife with convictions of her own, and not the quivering mess one would expect.

But then, that summaries the film in many ways, certainly not what one would expect. Like Looper isn’t about the sci-fi and action, Sinister isn’t so much about the horror either. Instead, we are treated to the desperation of a frustrated author and the tangled and taught relationships of his family. The story is richer for it, and that is what makes this far greater than its contemporaries. That being said, of course we get scares in the film. The scares themselves are more about nerves and tension then they are about the jump – the cheap and often tacky thrill that I absolutely despise.

To equate this nervous tension to recently successful films of the genre, it most closely relates to The Grudge. The choking sounds that indicate the danger and that something bad is going to happen, not necessarily jumpy but irksome, are relatable to the sounds of the projector firing up and rolling the home movies. The souls or demons of the dead are like-for-like between The Grudge and Sinister, going unnoticed by the character although are only millimetres away. Whilst the two are comparable on so many levels, the ends couldn’t be more incredibly different.

The end makes this film worth watching just as much as Hawke’s virtuoso performance as Ellison. I didn’t want to give anything away about this film when writing this, but gosh darn it, the ending is chilling in so many ways – shocking and scaring. When it arrives, it feels somewhat premature and rushed, yet it drags on longer than you might think leaving an uncomfortable feeling until the very end. Whilst the movie has put in such great work to build up the nervous tension with the awkward scary moments, it finishes with a final cliché that left me angry… Cut the final 2 seconds before the credits and this film is a horror heavyweight!

Personally, I don’t think its as good as Insidious (the first part of the film anyway), nor Paranormal Activity, the two films whose names are being bandied about due to the same producers being involved with Sinister. However this is good work. Go and see it. See if you get scared…

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